The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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CPM out of chair tussle

New Delhi, Oct. 17: The CPM does not want to take sides in the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party tussle over the Maharashtra chief minister's chair.

'We are not getting into this. Our main objective is to support a secular formation in Maharashtra,' said CPM politburo member Sitaram Yechury after a meeting with NCP spokesperson D.P. Tripathi.

Tripathi went to the CPM headquarters today and urged the leaders not to take the Congress' side.

Yesterday, the Congress had claimed that a correct tally of its seats should include the seats won by its allies, like the CPM, arguing that it had distributed tickets to them from its kitty.

The CPM has won three seats, which its leaders said were not from the Congress' share. The CPM and the CPI went it alone in Maharashtra after failing to sew up a satisfactory seat-sharing deal with the Congress. Together, the Left parties had contested 31 seats.

The parties had declared that they are fighting the elections on their own without any arrangement with the Congress. Any possible understanding between the Congress and the Left in the seats won by the CPM, therefore, was unofficial.

The Congress is desperately trying to rope in the CPM in its attempts to battle the NCP's claims of emerging as the single largest party. Senior party leader Ahmed Patel met Yechury in a bid to secure the CPM's backing.

But the CPM is determined to remain equidistant from the Congress and the NCP, both of which are its friends in Delhi. The CPM believes leadership issues should be sorted out by the parties concerned. 'Both the Congress and the NCP are mature parties and I am sure they will sort out the problems between themselves,' said Yechury.

The CPM is keen that the tussle should not drag on or become messy, giving the rival BJP-Shiv Sena combine a handle against the winners. But the party does not want at any cost to be seen as helping one partner against the other.

NCP chief and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar is close to CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan. On the other hand, outgoing Maharashtra chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, of the Congress, is known to be Yechury's friend.

On the eve of the Assembly elections, Shinde had visited the CPM headquarters and had a long chat with Yechury. Among other things, he had requested the CPM to withdraw its nominee from Sholapur, his constituency.

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